- by Christopher Newport
Are We Progressing?
As time goes by, I realise that my opinions, thoughts and beliefs have changed. I don’t think this is unusual, but it becomes obvious when we cast the mind back.
Isn’t it unfortunate that so few words of Christ are recorded? If more was on record, perhaps our Christian walk would be clearer? It would also be easier for us if biblical text was left alone and not “updated” to satisfy contemporary thought/theology or personal preference and interpretation. To me, the word of Christ is timeless and substitution is just not right. After all, the word homosexual was coined in 1869 and did not appear in any translation of the Christian Bible until 1946. Prior to that many bibles used the word 'lechery' (excessive or offensive sexual desire; lustfulness) rather than homosexuality. In ancient Rome and Greece there was a 'liking' for young boys. It was culturally accepted by the powerful and translates to horrible sexual abuse within today's thinking. How are you progressing? Here in Australia we have been going through a very painful marriage equality debate. The vote came in as a resounding yes (61%), but many people with good intentions (in their view) are angry about the result, some politicians are now trying to “amend” the bill as it passes through our parliament. A Christian friend of mine asked me recently about how my Christian journey is progressing - and I considered this question by looking back. Is what I believed now the same as I thought 15 years ago? No, I have changed. This has occurred through questioning, researching and looking at evidence. I have looked at the words of Christ and listened to the words of the church and have come to a few uncomfortable conclusions. When I became a “born again” Christian I was baptised and I was so excited ... and wet. What a wonderful new world I had entered. I soaked up everything: I went to Christian men’s groups, did courses and tried to become the best new Christian man I could. So it came to be a bit of a shock when I was told by some in my church that Santa Clause should not be talked about or believed in by our children. “But, why?” I queried. Additionally, I had worked in call centres, department stores and have for years been involved in community theatre. I met many gay and lesbian people along the way and a number of them are my friends to this day. I completed two men’s courses in quick succession. One was Dr James Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys and another was Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Both of these told me how a “good christian man” should behave and how I should bring up my children. (I should say that 'American Christian beliefs' sometimes grate on me. I was bought up with a slightly different 'English Christianity'. The diversity of humanity! Fancy telling our gay and lesbian friends that “God made a mistake with you!” What I was reading and being shown in these two courses conflicted with who I was. James Dobson postulated that 'gayness’ was caused by weak fathering or an absent father and further added that being gay was 'a choice' and good role modelling will 'prevent it'. Strong use of spanking was also promoted. John Eldredge suggested the way to bring up a boy is to: camp, shoot and mountain climb - the more physical the better. This will create "good, strong, God-fearing men". So I looked at myself... and I found I did not fit! I was a reader, I don’t like camping, I study, I write and I act. I love movies and restaurants and so do my children. I am a creative person. None of these things appeared in the two books that I read and studied. These courses included some wonderful images on the DVD’s. Being a movie tragic and a theatre nerd, I knew I was being manipulated with images of children, mountains and soft music. I did not finish Wild At Heart, mainly because it made fun of 'weak men' (like me). So I began to question what I was being told. There are all sorts of men: we're are not all rootin’ tootin’ mid-west cowboys. Why do many churches promote this American myth of Christianity and masculinity intersecting? What of the gentle giants, the thinkers and creators? What about the many gay and lesbian scientists, actors and mountain climbers. I met gay and lesbian friends with happy parents, both married and accepting. My physical evidence contradicted what I was being taught.
I have met a lot of wise men and women in the church. There have been amazing historical Christian heroes. I have read biblical history (like the above history of the word homosexual) - I looked at translations. After years, I started to drift away... Not from God - but from the church. Because, it occurred to me that whilst we were reading the Bible, it had been edited! New words inserted to meet contemporary prejudices perhaps. He was a very naughty boy! I knew Jesus was awesome, sometimes called a trouble-maker. He loved the dirty and the oppressed. He was a rebel! He believed we were all wonderfully made. That includes gay men and so-called weak men. The thinkers, and creatives, as well as the doers. Then one day our pastor mentioned in a sermon the “scourge of homosexuality in our community”... That was it for me. I was on a quest to find the type of church I would be content with - and that was my mistake. I dragged my poor wife from church to church to find the “perfect fit” for me and I found it does not exist! Churches are run by flawed, well-intentioned men and women. Just like you and me. There is no perfection when man is in control.
I was looking across rather than up
So I started looking to Jesus and there was a sudden epiphany in my life! I realised that church can be a part of our Christian walk, but, it is not the only part. I do go to Church irregularly - but I think of Jesus constantly. I became aware that powerful Christianity was exploding around me. Christians supporting marriage equality! Christians supporting the correct treatment of refugees! Christians supporting the ending of the child sex trade and slavery! Christians who follow Christ’s words which we don’t always hear at the pulpit. (To be fair, there are fantastic churches where this does happen.) These Christians are like a John Wycliffe or a William Wilberforce. They were, and are, a real power to be reckoned with because they are doing God’s work. But what about me or you? My journey is continuing and this is the right thing for me. Stagnation is wrong: for me, for the Church and for God! God wants us all to grow and mature. He wants his church to do the same. He wants us to love, serve and forgive our neighbours. He wants fathers to be the best at who they were made to be and lead by example. He wants mothers to lead in the same way. He wants us all to care for the less fortunate, He wants cruelty to be expunged. But most of all: he wants us to be who we are. Not to pretend to be someone we are not and certainly, he does not want us as Christians to force others to conform. It is okay to question! God loves to stretch us and see us grow. Let us celebrate our diversity and our God-given talents!
Christopher wants to see fairness in the world and desires to see the doors of Christianity open to all. He has been a drama junkie for decades. He found God in the 1990’s but too often sees faith and belief being used to promote individuals doctrines. Chris enjoys reading, theatre, good food and good company. Chris loves music but can’t play a note. He has two adult children and a patient wife. He lives in Melbourne Australia. See previous articles by Christopher Newport